This post is a follow up to Part I found here. Please read the background info there and then read this post which contains actionable information.
A moral framework for sexual health
When it came to the “talk,” my parents never offered me much past basic anatomy and advice like, “sex with someone you love is best.” Since I came up sexually before the internet, we didn’t have access to the type of information we have today. Between no information first hand and little way to find any independently, I was left to de-code on my own what was right and wrong. Being that we weren’t religious, I literally had no framework (good or bad) within which to operate.
By my late 30’s, living with no framework to guide me, my sex life reached a point where I started to ask myself, is this ok?
I achieved my goals and in the process, my life became unbelievable to most others. I eventually had no reference point.
I shared stories with my friends or anonymously online and people dismissed it as fantasy or bullshit. My reality became so far from the norm there were few anchoring references. To me, I broke new ground and yet felt uncomfortable – my dissonance grew.
As the acts became more intense, they became riskier. The emotions involved were strong. The potential downsides seemed higher if what I was doing wasn’t “ok.” Women wanted me to degrade them. Things we did left welts and marks for days.
Further from shore, my ability to self-regulate against a “norm” became increasingly difficult.
I needed to check in with someone. I needed to check in with myself.
It’s one thing to think she wants your hands wrapped around her neck as you finish, it’s another to have explicit consent.
It’s another to know that she is doing it because she wants to do it and isn’t operating from a fear mindset. And it’s yet another to have sex with multiple people honestly vs. conveniently leaving out your girlfriend back at home.
The questions became complex and complicated. Navel gazing journal entries and online research weren’t cutting it anymore. I needed more help.
I specifically found one who specialized in sexual health and non-traditional relationships. Together we set out to explore my sexual behaviors and how to anchor them within a healthy moral framework.
The following is what he taught me over the course of many sessions. I’ve incorporated this into my daily life and it has helped me tremendously. I hope it can help you too.
[The following is taken from the forthcoming book: Braun-Harvey, D., & Vigorito, M. (2016). Treating Out of Control Sexual Behavior: Rethinking Sex Addiction New York: Springer Publishing Company.]
Don’t let the name of the book scare you. This model is for more than just analyzing out of control sexual behavior.
It is a useful tool for those of us who ever ask ourselves, is this ok? In fact, this model is useful for all healthy individuals to frame their decisions in a secular moral manner.
We should be checking in on our behavior all the time. Auto-regulation is a characteristic of the self-actualized man. We question ourselves to make sure we sure on the right path. If we are off target, we reconsider and adjust.
Refining who we are is a daily and life-long practice.
As you progress beyond the mundane and mediocre, having this tool will be helpful in both getting what you want, as well as making sure it is all ok.
Think of this model as a way to answer the simple question: Is this healthy?
Braun-Harvey and Vigorito derived the following framework from the existing public health consensus on sexual health with an extra twist. Their intention was to reduce the influence of prescriptive disapproving or stigmatizing sociocultural sexual values on their model, leaving us with a moral framework to operate within focused on the health of the actors rather than subjective values surrounding their behavior.
In other words, this is shame-free, subjectivity-free model one can use to identify their behaviors as healthy and ok.
The model consists of six principals. Each principal should be kept in mind when considering your behavior. The process will bring you to a better understanding of your true desires.
I outline them here, with my own commentary following. Some of this will seem fairly obvious but it bears repeating as a foundation.
A Moral Framework For Sexual Health
3. Protection from HIV/STIs and unintended pregnancy
5. Shared values
6. Mutual pleasure
Issues around consent today are tricky. Various groups have their own definitions and they seem to be changing rapidly. The standards are also different for different people, as I’ve outlined here. For our purposes, let’s assume consent is explicit and understood mutually.
For most “standard” encounters, asking your girl, “are you ready to get fucked?” and her saying “yes” is perfectly sufficient – not to mention being good game.
For me in BDSM however, I often engage in elaborate consent practices. I’ve had people write down their consent, record it on video or restate it verbally frequently during an encounter. Scenarios are discussed prior and boundaries are explicit. Everything is pre-determined ok or not.
If you are experimenting, I highly recommend obtaining written consent to anything that includes bondage or S&M.
As a general practice, my relationships end up where consent is understood by their ongoing presence. They are free to remove that consent at anytime, but until then I’m free to act as I wish. All consensually.
Consent should be seen as liberating not restrictive. Explicit consent allows for deeper exploration. It is an obvious essential. Sure, fumbling around not certain you’re going to do this or that with a hot girl is part of the fun. However, having iron clad mutual consent opens the door to so much more.
The deepest explorations can only be done in the context of a loving, caring, mutually beneficial and consensual relationship.
For our purposes, non-exploitation here means the sexual behavior you are engaging in doesn’t result in someone being abused, raped, coerced, forced, or controlled sexually against their will. It is also assumed all your sexual activities are with those old enough to consent.
No sex with minors. No sex with someone forced into the sex trade. No sex with someone who doesn’t understand what they are doing. No sex without consent.
Protection from STI’s and unwanted pregnancy
Unwanted pregnancy is the quickest way to ruin your life, brothers. It will tie you to a woman you hate for the rest of your life. It will chain you to child support payments. It will limit where you can you live. It will control your career decisions. It will impact nearly everything in your life. Sure, you’ll have an amazing kid to love, but trust me, having kids is something you want to pro-actively decide, not to have happen by accident.
Use condoms to prevent against pregnancy.
If you’re in a relationship, the best bet is for your GF to use an IUD. It is highly effective and requires no daily dosing. In fact, the less exogenous hormones the better: leave her in her natural state. Avoid the pill if you can, a non-hormonal IUD is the way to go.
Sexually transmitted infections we definitely don’t want, but the fear is overblown. Legitimately, the heterosexual male should be concerned with herpes and HPV. The rest can be treated with antibiotics but herpes is with you forever. I use condoms with new partners as a rule, but I know they don’t protect against everything. But they do protect against unwanted pregnancy and that’s way worse than a herpes blister.
Use condoms with new partners and definitely use condoms when you’re having sex with someone who isn’t your primary partner. Bringing herpes home to your girlfriend isn’t cool.
This is where it gets more difficult.
Being honest with her means being honest with yourself first. It also means being fearless.
Honesty can be risky, as it can mean the loss of your opportunity. If you tell her exactly what you want and exactly what is up, she may balk. Instead, if you keep your motives vague enough to let her project, you might get laid.
Don’t do it. I’ve operated under the cloud of vagueness before. “Oh, she never asked.” “She didn’t bring it (exclusivity, relationship intentions, etc) up.” “I didn’t tell her I was single.” “I’m not technically lying.”
As you can see, I’ve rationalized my lack of complete honesty in many ways. Aside from being wrong, lying is also tactically inefficient. I realized this method wasn’t getting me what I wanted. It only created more problems such as mismatched expectations and the drama which follows. I learned quickly:
Honesty is the best approach.
When I did share my intentions or desires, I was often surprised at how open-minded many women were and how my presumptions weren’t always accurate. I solved future problems by being honest today.
She may reject you based on what you tell her. You may be left without. But if you have worked to develop an abundance of opportunities, you can be fearless. Create choices in your life through fitness, game, and personal development and honesty becomes easier.
Raise your status.
If you want to have an open relationship where you see other people, tell her. If you’re in a relationship already and want her to just be a side partner, tell her. If you want her to pee on the floor while you spank her, tell her.
You only get what you want when you ask for it.
Be a man, be honest, and get what you want.
When I was younger I didn’t really understand what values meant. I thought it was something conservative meant to restrict my behavior. “Family values” meant marriage and boring old sex, if any.
In reality, shared values are simply common interests and understandings. An example would be monogamy. If monogamy and commitment are important to you, your sexual activities should be with someone who shares that same value or at least tolerates it.
If you have a desire to be non-monogamous, you must share that with your primary partner as well as your secondary ones. Honesty goes hand in hand with shared values.
Maybe your values are that sex should be something only a man and wife engage in. If so, find someone with the same shared value and get with them.
I’m not here to judge.
Whatever your values are, make sure they align with your partner(s).
Pleasure from sex takes many forms. For some, it is the physical element or the orgasm. For others, it may include the mental and emotional aspects of intimacy. For still others, it may come from being of service or losing control.
Whatever the form, pleasure for both parties is essential.
She can take pleasure from being your masturbation device. Or you can enjoy giving her eight orgasms in a row.
Recent studies have shown scores of positive reasons people have sex. Just make sure you both get some or all of what you need.
Honesty with yourself and honesty with her play an important role. Don’t be afraid to share your desires with your partner. She may surprise you. And if she is judgmental or offended, it’s better to know sooner rather than later.
As you can see the common theme underlying this moral framework of sexual health is honesty. Honesty with one’s self and honesty with your partner(s) is paramount in order to achieve a fulfilled life, sexual or otherwise. It will lead to self-discovery and discovery within your relationships. Learning is all part of the process.
Introspection and self-reflection are essential to improving and evolving healthy behaviors. Only time and experience will ultimately give you your answers, but in the meantime, adhering as best as possible to the framework will help guide you.
For me, this moral framework for sexual health gave me a concise set of questions to ask when checking in to see if my behavior was ok.
- Is it consensual?
- Is it honest?
- Is it non-exploitative?
- Am I protected against disease and unwanted pregnancy?
- Do we share common values around sex?
- Are we both getting what we want from it?
If the answers are yes, then I’m ok.
This model doesn’t just apply to me and my BDSM stuff either.
This is a healthy way to approach sex from the beginning. The hardest part is honestly assessing your values.
If you keep these questions in mind as you make decisions in college, in the bars or in your relationships, you can stay grounded within an established moral framework and be certain what you’re doing is indeed, “ok.”
Our parents didn’t have this information to give us. Our schools aren’t teaching it. I’m trying to get the message out.
I hope my experience and wisdom can reach those who need to hear it.
I outline this moral framework of sexual health in order to better frame and contextualize some of my writing. I have written about some controversial topics, and am willing to discuss the range of sexual possibilities.
Its important to me that my readers understand these decisions aren’t made in a vacuum, when in fact, they are thoughtfully considered and reflected upon within a moral framework.
Tell me: What is your reaction? Do you relate to anything I wrote? Do you think I’m crazy? Post in the comments so others in the community can hear your experiences.
PS: Click here to purchase: Braun-Harvey, D., & Vigorito, M. (2016). Treating Out of Control Sexual Behavior: Rethinking Sex Addiction. New York: Springer Publishing Company.